I’m playing with different music discovery social web apps.
Friends have always been a great boost when I’m looking to extend my musical horizons and I feel like I’m in a listening rut. This has especially been true at work, where I’ve often shared an office with someone willing to listen to my music some of the time and play his music some of the time. Working with people who have flexible musical tastes is a great way to expand your own.
Unfortunately for me, my current office situation does not allow music, and it’s back to headphones. Which I pretty much hate. I find it annoying, in 2008, to have my head attached to my computer via a wire. But, worse than being encumbered, I can’t rely on my co-workers to be DJs.
I hope that social music discovery web apps will fill that gap.
I’ve been on Last.fm for a while, but have only visited it infrequently. I could never really get my head around the purpose of it, and I felt the website was a bit unfocused — unlike the more straightforward iLike. I installed their “Scrobbler’ software which is supposed to detect what you’re listening to in iTunes and help keep track of your likes and dislikes. But I was immediately turned off when I couldn’t manually define my likes. I went back a few times and never felt like it was more trouble than it was worth. I uninstalled the software. I know people who use it, but I think they’ve lost me for good now.
I think iLike started out as a Facebook app. This may explain why it appears more simple and focused.
I can’t remember why I first signed up, but I immediately felt like comfortable because it throws a bunch of artists at you and asks you to either rate them “iLiked” or not. So it’s easy to go through a bunch of your likes and dislikes quickly, without even downloading anything.
Basically, this appeared to be nothing more than a database of artists where you could keep track of your preferences, compare them to your friends, and find new music by looking at what your friends are listening to.
But today I’ve noticed there’s a bit more to it. There are free GarageBand tracks to download. And R.E.M. have released their new album online in a sort of preview mode. You can listen to the whole album (called Accelerate) on iLike. Listen to it all you want this week. They hope this will help you decide to buy it when it hits the stores. I think it’s a good strategy for an established band. I like R.E.M. and this new album seems to be basically more good R.E.M.
If you like iLike, you can download a sidebar that attaches itself to iTunes or Windows Media Player (at least, on Windows). It can keep track of music you play, and allows you to easily add tracks to the list of stuff you iLike. Also, the sidebar will make recommendations based on your listening habits. It’s fairly unobtrusive, so far.
It also points you to what appear to be free music downloads, but I’m not certain how related those are to your listening habits. They may just be randomly suggested tracks. None of these web have much depth when it comes to explaining what’s going on behind the scenes — they’re hoping you just focus on the interface they give you.
I just signed up to this today, so I still haven’t gotten much of a feel for Grooveshark. Unlike iLike, you do have to download an application to get started on Grooveshark. This makes it more like Last.fm. But the Grooveshark “Shark Bite” application immediately wants to upload your music folder’s catalog.
That list of songs, once uploaded, becomes your library on the Grooveshark website. You can play any of the tracks you see there and also drag them into playlists which your friends are supposed to be able to share. Shareable playlists was one of the things that enticed me about Grooveshark. I’d love to be able to share playlists with friends and have them listen to mine while I listen to theirs. I’ll get back to you on how well that works, because I barely have any friends there yet.
Even so, Groovshark immediately lets you search for songs you don’t have and you can listen to almost any song you can think of. Grooveshark assures us that it is doing this legally. You have to pay if you want to download the song to your iPod or hard drive, but it seems to let you listen freely. This would seem to mean that listening to your friends playlists is not a pipe dream.
To listen to these tracks, your friends have to run the Sharkbyte Java application, which is small and, they say, easy to uninstall. This appears to be true.
Something weird, though: Sharkbyite appears to be uploading music from my hard drive. I haven’t yet figured out exactly why it’s doing this. I believe it has to do with the ultimate goal of track and playlist sharing, but they’re short on explanations.
If you just wanted to listen to other people’s playlists, it appears you could install the app and refuse to point it at your music folder. It doesn’t seem to get upset, and will happily allow you to play tracks from albums you do not own. I was listening to an old Nine Inch Nails album earlier today.
My jury’s still out on Grooveshark, but I’m intrigued.
Pandora — from the Music Genome Project — remains the most easy site to use with no downloads and all pure listening and recommendations. If you want to forget the social aspect and focus on music, Pandora is your one stop shop. You don’t even need an account to start listening.
The last time I was using Pandora, there was no social aspect. But now it seems they’ve added the ability to scan your address book and connect to your friends. So, you can music-stalk your friends for new music. This is great for a music stalker, such as myself, who is hungry for suggestions.
This is part of my problem — there is too much music I like. Yet I am always looking for something new, and I get bored easily. Pandora is a good antidote for that.
Let me know what music apps you’re using, how you find new music, and what you think of the above services.
If you’re interested in being part of my network on any of these sites, here are some ways to find me:
Help a music-lover out.Posted by James at March 24, 2008 9:12 PM
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